City of Orange AirBnB patron taken on February 20, 2020. Credit: Reggie Mundekis

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Short Term Rentals (STRs) can be portrayed as a harmless way for a property owner to make money by renting by the night instead of signing a lease with a tenant. Renting by the night can give a property owner the same amount of cash in a few weeks from hotel guests who come and go on a daily basis compared to a monthly rental payment from a renter who may live in the property for several years. “What’s the harm in making more money from my property” say those in the STR industry.

There’s a lot of harm, both immediate and long term. Living in a neighborhood is about knowing your neighbors. You know things like kids play in the street so don’t drive fast when you come around the corner and that there is an elderly person a few doors down who needs you to check in on them. Recipes, remodeling ideas, and names of reliable contractors and tradespeople are shared in the neighborhood. You worked to build this community in your little corner of the world.

Then, an STR pops up. A constant stream of strangers comes to your neighborhood. Those strangers neither know or care about how your neighborhood works or about anyone in your neighborhood. You have been invaded by an STR.

Problems with noise, parking, threats and other issues come with the invaders. Neighbors who push back against the invaders can be met by little sympathy and outright resistance from the STR operator. Neighbors who never asked for their lives to be disrupted by an STR work to finds ways to protect themselves and their families from the always changing stream of invaders. No amount of transient occupancy tax paid by STRs can ever make up for this harm.

A home is lost when an STR is created, which is a long term harm to the neighborhood and the entire city. Any STR whether it be a single room, an apartment, an entire house, or any other residence took a home away from some one in the city. When an STR opens, a home is lost.

California has an ongoing housing shortage which has been driven in part by conversion of homes to STRs. California cities are required by law to enact plans to allow for adequate housing for current and future residents. Creating an STR takes away a home which is needed to meet the needs of current residents. That lost home now has to be replaced to keep the same number of homes within the city just to break even.

If the City of Orange allows over 300 STRs to be legalized, the same number of homes need to be created to replace what has been taken off the housing market. Where can over 300 new homes be built in the City of Orange to replace those lost to the STR invasion?

The City of Orange is built out meaning there is little open land to be used to build new housing. Increasing the number of homes in Orange requires older homes be removed and new higher density homes be built. In practical terms, a single family home may become four or more units on the same lot and a two story apartment building may be replaced by a four or five story apartment building.

It does not make sense to take homes off the market to benefit a few people while harming neighborhoods and creating the need to build more homes just to keep even. Do you want your neighborhood to be rezoned to higher density to allow STRs to operate? If you do, please let the City Council know.

Reggie Mundekis lives in Orange and successfully worked with a diverse team to stop the sale of the Orange County Fairgrounds. She has engineering degrees from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ, and the University of Texas – Austin in addition to a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Southern California.

Opinions expressed in community opinion pieces belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue or others please email opinions@voiceofoc.org.

 

For a different view on this issue, consider: 

Tillou: Supporting Small Business in Orange, a More Balanced Approach to STRs

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